I saw Chess for the first time when I was around six, at a neighbour’s place, during a summer vacation. It was another board game, but unlike droughts or ludo, it had so many different ‘characters’ queen, king, horse, elephant, camel and what not ? Each piece was different in the way it moved about . How exciting ?
My brother, two years elder to me, and I were so excited about the ‘new’ game that we had to try it out at home. Like a ‘Dhayakkattam’ (or Chaupad as it is called in the North) we drew the board on the floor. Since every piece was different we had to make card board pieces with names written on top like king ,queen etc. We just knew how they moved and nothing else. Most of the board games had a start point and a finish point . This board had neither. So we assumed that the aim was to just go about killing the pieces of the opponent left and right and whosoever had some piece left on the board won. We played all afternoon with these rudimentary rules , but thoroughly enjoyed it.
When appa came home from office we were still at it moving the pieces about chasing, killing , threatening and parrying. He thought it was another of those nameless, spontaneously improvised games that kids play, until we told him proudly that we were playing ‘Chess’. He didn’t say anything, then. But the next day when he came home he had brought real Chessboard and Chessmen. As he took out the packet, when asked what it was, I remember him telling in his characteristic way “ vazaikkai bajji “ (Some eatable) . I can still recall the sight and smell of the new plastic set.
The rest of the vacation was just chess ,chess and chess. Our neighborhood kids were not much interested, one reason being that we beat them hollow from the first day. So most of the time we played against each other. In the evening, when appa came home, we took turns to play with him. Before long we started beating him . On Sundays he got books from the public library to learn the theory systematically.
The books were in English , so appa had to read . As a matter of fact , I learnt chess notations before I could read English. It was so fascinating . I particularly remember one game by Adolf Anderson that changed our outlook towards chess forever.
It is also called the immortal game. (Anderssen,A – Kieseritzky,L London 1851)
We always played to kill as many of the pieces of the opponent and bigger the kill , better it was. Here was a game in which Black has all his pieces, Major and Minor, intact while white is left with just two Knights and a Bishop. Yet it was the three lowly minor pieces that checkmates the Black King and none of his own Maharathis (Warriors) are able to come to the defence of Black King.
Chess meant tactics, Chess meant strategy Chess meant winning the game even while losing the pieces.
Then I remember following the Boris Spassky – Bobby Fischer World Championship Match , through Newspapers. The Hindu used to give a four column coverage on the Sports page with Manual Aaron, India’s first International Master covering the event.
When I was nine, I joined a boarding school where boys played more of Football, Hockey and Kabbadi rather than chess or Carom Board. After Joining the NDA and later Army , I drifted further and further away from the world of Chess, though I always had a chess set with me , even in field area.
Now after retirement, thanks to on-line chess, I get to play quality chess whenever I want to. It is like a great home-coming to pleasures of Chess.
Here’s the whole game “The Immortal game”